Students who were sexually abused at Dilworth will be paid financial compensation in what is believed to be an unprecedented move for a New Zealand school.
Details about how much might be on offer or how the compensation will be allocated are yet to be determined by the private boarding school, which has sought "best practice" advice from experts both here and overseas.
The move, believed to be the first of its kind on this scale in New Zealand, comes as a group of around 60 Old Boys have taken a class action to the Human Rights Commission.
Other former students have sought separate legal advice about taking individual cases for the abuse, most of which occurred in the 1970s-2000s and involved at least 120 students who were molested by teachers, tutors, housemasters, Scout leaders and chaplains.
Eleven men have been charged in relation to the abuse, one of whom has been jailed already.
Dilworth Trust Board chairman Aaron Snodgrass said it has been two years since the school first apologised to victims and announced proactive steps to address the abuse, including providing a listening service and supporting anyone making a police complaint.
Now the school is looking at compensation, which could be available to victims in the first half of 2022.
"The board is about to begin consulting on a redress programme which includes provision of financial compensation for any Old Boy survivor of sexual abuse.
"This is something that Dilworth has been wanting to do for some time and it's in keeping with our philosophy of wanting to [take] care of our Old Boys."
Snodgrass said the board has been working with "leading experts in New Zealand and Australia" to see how redress for survivors of sexual abuse has been approached previously. The board has also taken note of the interim findings and recommendations from the Royal Commission of Inquiry.
"We are determined that our redress model will be best-practice, adhering to the fundamental principles of being survivor-focused, comprehensive and restorative. It will be open and accessible to all Old Boys who have been impacted by sexual abuse during their time at Dilworth."
Snodgrass said he knew there would be many questions but the board wouldn't have a full picture of how it would work until consultation with all stakeholders, especially survivors - including those party to the class action, had finished.
There has been mixed reaction to the news that compensation is on the table.
Some, like survivor Vaughan Sexton, were angered at the way the school has gone about announcing it in a video on a private Old Boys Facebook page that many of the victims are not part of.
"It's a high-handed approach," he said. "All it does is raises people's hackles, wouldn't you reach out to the people you care about first, then do that?"
He said the offer did however give strength to the class action which aimed to hold the school accountable.
"They have showed their cards saying 'we are going to offer some people some cash'.
"I've spoken to a couple of people about it, they aren't surprised by [the offer of compensation]. It's inevitable they will have to face it – they are going to be put under the blowtorch [in the class action]."
Mobenna Hills, a sexual abuse law specialist for Shine Lawyers and who is representing a handful of Old Boys considering individual claims, said the "devil will be in the detail" of how the scheme is rolled out.
While there had been private, individual settlements, she wasn't aware of any cases where a school has offered financial compensation to a large number of survivors in New Zealand.
"The case is unprecedented in New Zealand as no other school has had such a high number of perpetrators face court action at the one time. No other school has had so many students come forward with horrific encounters of abuse."
She noted none of the people her firm was representing had been contacted by the school, or were aware of the development. The news would however be welcomed, albeit subject to what was being offered.
"These are survivors of some of the most unimaginable crimes to the most vulnerable in our society, in a place of trust. They deserve an apology and adequate compensation.
"The trust is liable as it breached its duty of care to the students allowing them to be abused at the hands of its staff. The trust is a well-financed institution and should have set aside funding to cover this eventuality, given they've known of the offending for a long time."
Hills said while there was no school precedent, cases involving historical sexual abuse in state care have tended to result in payouts ranging between $30,000-$80,000.
Abuse survivor Neil Harding, who is leading the class action, said it was "deeply disappointing" to learn the school had proposed a redress programme on a Facebook page that "most survivors" don't belong to.
"While we welcome the school's acknowledgement that it should pay financial compensation, it is not appropriate to attempt to negotiate this via its Old Boy community.
"Many of the survivors affected by the announcement have signed up to the class action complaint to hold it accountable for the harm caused. We are committed to achieving the best outcome for all survivors, including proper recognition of the school's role and appropriate redress."
Snodgrass has encouraged Old Boys to reach out to the school if they need support or email him if they would like to view the video and can't access it on Facebook. Email firstname.lastname@example.org